Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) won the state’s gubernatorial race on Tuesday, securing a reliable Republican stronghold for four more years.
The race, however, was closer than match-ups in recent elections. President Donald Trump carried Mississippi by more than 17 percentage points in the 2016 election, but in Tuesday’s contest against state Attorney General Jim Hood (D), Reeves won by about 8 percentage points, according to preliminary results.
The election prompted fears from some voting rights activists that Republicans would try to leverage their power in the state legislature to benefit Reeves. A Jim Crow-era law gives the Republican-controlled state House the authority to choose the governor if a candidate doesn’t win both a majority of the total vote and a majority of the vote in at least half of the state’s 122 districts. Hood’s supporters had feared a scenario where the Democrat would clear one threshold but not the other, opening the way for lawmakers to deny him the governorship.
But Democrats who hoped to flip the state in their favor on Tuesday were disappointed.
The party fared well in other parts of the country on Tuesday, however, and took control of both chambers of the Virginia legislature for the first time in decades. Democrat Andy Beshear also declared victory in the Kentucky governor’s race, although The Associated Press said the match-up was still too close to call.
Reeves won Trump’s “Complete & Total Endorsement” ahead of the election, with the president praising him as “strong on Crime, tough on Illegal Immigration, and will protect your Second Amendment.” During a rally earlier this month meant to shore up support for Reeves, Trump lambasted the Democratic Party and described the House’s impeachment inquiry as a “disgrace.”
“They’ve been plotting to overthrow the election since the moment I won,” the president said at the time, before insisting that Republicans never had “greater support than we have right now.”
The president also called Tuesday’s race “VERY important” for Republicans going into the 2020 election.
Reeves will replace Gov. Phil Bryant ― a staunch conservative who is leaving office due to term limits ― and has promised to lead the state with similar hard-line policies. Reeves vowed to oppose any expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, saying: “Mississippians believe the way to a better future is not through handouts or bailouts but through hard work and more freedom.”
He also cast himself as a firm Trump ally throughout the campaign.
“If, God forbid, President Trump is replaced by one of the radical liberals running in 2020, the people of Mississippi will not take kindly to their proposed efforts to confiscate our guns,” Reeves wrote on his campaign website, pledging to protect Second Amendment rights.